Is my child learning?
It’s the first question on every parent’s mind when it comes to education.
And the only way we can answer that question is through shared responsibility, shared accountability.
We have a responsibility to set a high bar for every child, regardless of the challenges the child may face, and provide the teaching and support each child needs to meet those expectations. That’s the promise of public education and the right of every child.
We have a responsibility to set a high bar for every teacher. The teacher has the most direct impact on a child’s success in the classroom.
Accountability means holding everyone with responsibilities to high standards of performance.
We look to school districts and states to invest in classroom resources and support teachers — set clear expectations, help teachers develop their craft, provide meaningful support that is tailored to the teacher’s needs, and then provide a fair, multi-faceted review of how well teachers are serving the educational needs of our students. We also look to districts and states to drive improvements in schools that fall short year after year.
We look to principals to establish a safe, welcoming and rigorous school culture with a coherent and compelling vision for learning and growth. We look to principals to foster excellence by recognizing top teachers, providing support to help struggling teachers improve, and replacing those who aren’t showing improvement.
We look to teachers to help every student learn — not just those students who are self-motivated learners. We look to teachers to model that love of learning — learn new ways to engage students, master their subject matter, seek advice and accept critical feedback, and get better at their craft every year.
We look to parents to partner in their child’s education — make learning a priority at home, advocate for their child, and understand how they can help make things better in their children’s classrooms and schools.
And we should all look in the mirror and ask: What more can I do to improve educational opportunities for our kids?
What About Testing?
We need tests. They are one way to answer the question: Is my child learning?
Tests need to be fair, reflective of high standards, and done in moderation. They will tell parents and teachers if a child is learning the basics, while also developing critical-thinking skills. Tests should be used to help identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses, so that learning can improve for that child.
We need to be accountable for the quality of public education, which also means we shouldn’t over-test our children or devote excessive learning time to test prep.
What About Teacher Evaluation?
We need fair, balanced and regular teacher evaluations that allow parents to trust that their child has a teacher who is passionate about his or her craft, knows how to engage students with creative lessons, and connects with students as individual learners.
Test results that show how students are learning should be one measure of a teacher’s overall performance, along with classroom observation, student surveys, and other indicators.
We need to stop fighting this common-sense change to teacher support and evaluation. We can’t return to the past — when there were no clear expectations for teachers, no meaningful training and support, and 97 percent of teachers in America were rated “satisfactory,” largely based on cursory classroom visits and superficial checklists.
We know what is possible when we devote less energy to what separates us and focus more on what binds us together: belief in our kids; hope for a brighter future.
School Shootings Aren’t the Only Things School Police Officers Need to Train For
In light of recent school shootings, one of the proposed solutions has been to put more school police officers in schools. In the last 30…
Her School Didn’t Just Get Her Through College, It Got Her Through Tragedy
Three people, two tragedies and one college visit shaped April Austin’s post-secondary dream of becoming an occupational therapist. Growing up, April’s grandfather loomed large in…
What Do Teachers Say About the Janus Supreme Court Case? We Asked Them.
Teachers are the first individuals that people think of when it comes to education, yet our perspectives are often the last considered when it comes…
This Small Federal Investment in Principals Could Pay Off Big
Here’s the good news: The field of education has the knowledge to make schools better. Not just a little better. A lot better. I know…
I’ve Had 12 Students Tell Me They’re Homeless This Year
Every period, every day, I greet students at the door so I can have a pre-class check-in. I joke with kids, compliment fades, eyebrows and…
Here’s What a Supreme Court Ruling for Janus Could Mean for Teachers Unions
Policymakers, journalists, analysts, and—to be sure—union leaders and members are eagerly, and perhaps nervously, awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The Supreme…
Let’s Get Real About Graduating Kids, Not Gaming Grad Rates
“Tyrone” sat across from me, leaning forward with his hands wringing in anxiety as I stared blankly at my computer screen. Staring back at me…
Here’s the One Thing We Just Can’t Agree on When It Comes to Schools
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you they want their child to go to a good school. But ask them what makes a good school,…
No Child Left Behind Had a Lot of Problems But I Miss the Days When We Cared About How All Kids Did in School
Once upon a time, well-heeled suburban schools used to have to worry about whether all their students made the grade—not just some of them, not…
Betsy DeVos Gets a Lesson in Civil Rights Now That Her High School Is Being Sued
There are phone calls a parent never wants to get. We received one such call, informing us that our daughter had been raped on a…